Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: directing

Improv for Life

It’s no secret that I took a big knock to my confidence at the festival of hard lessons. It was a blow to all facets of my creative self; writing, performing, directing, networking, publicising, selling. I knew with the passion of all that I hold dear that the work I had made was absolutely good, and I grew to understand that there was very little audience for it. Hard knocks.

It has taken me a while to recover. Part of that process has been the writing of a new play and a new short story; work I am partly very proud of and partly totally insecure about. Who knows if it is any good? It’s a lot like getting back onto the bicycle after a massive tumble and blow to the head. Actually, I remember coming off my brother’s bike and scraping my knees to shit on the gravel driveway when I was about eight or nine, and never getting back onto one again, so for me the analogy is particularly poignant.

The other part of the recovery process has been improv, and that part has been entirely, magnificently successful. And that is because improv is a positive life force.

On the weekend I was one of many actors involved in the shooting of a developmental movie (to become the pitch for a real, full length feature). What was fantastic about it was that we could come up with our own characters, back stories, circumstances and scenarios, and then we could improvise our scenes. This was right up my alley (and in fact, one of my little scenes was in a kind of alley). I don’t want to give away any of the story or who I was or what I did, but I loved the opportunity to create, improvise and make offers and proposals that were accepted with such a positive response.

And then, of course, there are our Monday (The Intimate) and Tuesday (The Kalk Bay Theatre) shows, monthly workshops, monthly Jam Sandwich experiments at Alexander Bar, and our weekly classes. Improv is mind blowing. It is proper team work. It is absolute creativity. It is hard and exciting, and easy and hilarious and heartbreakingly beautiful, and totally irreverent and rude, and outrageous, and huge and boisterous, and whacky and precious. It is brilliant to watch; last night I emceed a fantastic show where some of the scenes were absolute masterpieces. It is awesome to perform; last week I played in a scene that will stay with me forever, where Leon Clingman and I performed a game called Shared Memory Story and we were husband and wife philosophers on a skiing trip where something happened to an actual rectum apparent. Yes. It was one of those unexplainable little improv miracles. I love teaching improv, and giving notes. I love my response to it and I love seeing it in others. And I love our audiences. I love them. I love improv as a philosophy with its Yes Let’s answer to everything, and its You Can’t Fuck Up theory. I love spreading the word of improv and I love just doing it for its own sake. My little youtube moments are a great example of when improv just comes to me.

I really enjoy the challenge of writing, performing straight (scripted) theatre, and directing. All of it is part of my craft. But I go home to my heart love when I am improvising.

Mbali Celeste Bloom-Wrench

I think she is about to become my favourite character. Let me know what you think!

Directors and Directing impressions

When I was driving home last night I thought about the possibility that I would be the only person who would be writing (in this contradiction of a public and private space that is my blog) a deeply personal account of the extraordinary weekend of directors, directing, performance and conversation that Jay Pather and GIPCA made happen. I must confess to feeling a little overwhelmed. So much had happened, so much had been said, so much had been felt. So I have decided to put down my impressions; things I remember thinking and feeling, in the hope that it will capture some of what it was like to have been there.

In Anton Kreuger’s closing comments he spoke a list of things that he liked and connected with; ideas, thoughts, words. I loved his rambling, almost poetic sensibility and I am going to try and steal it here.

Things I loved, in no particular order. I loved Malcolm Purkey’s opening speech. He is a generous, loving theatre guy and that’s how he made me feel. I loved the fact that a two and a half day intensive experience with a relatively niche topic could be so completely well attended. I loved the gentle, ever present hand of organiser, conceptualiser and curator of the event Jay Pather, who followed every single moment. I loved the support people expressed for each other’s work; there is so little opportunity for that in real life. I loved Marianne Thamm; she is so brave, and clever, and clear. I loved our strange and passionate discussion at Kauai over lunch. I loved Nicola Hanekom’s reinterpretation of Boesman en Lena. That chick has balls the size of coconuts. I loved Chuma Sopotela in Aubrey Sekhabi’s version. I loved Zingi Mkefa’s whimsy and voice. I loved Amy Jephta’s well prepared note which was so much about the work and so little about the “I”, and I loved why and how she got pissed off. I loved Chris Weare’s interjections and observations that are all about his passion and clarity and cleverness. I loved how funny Janni Younge was; I had no idea! I loved Pusetso Thibedi’s production Capturing Sanity and his personal ease and charm. I loved hooking up with old friends and sharing in the stuff of theatre making. I loved the catering, the organisation, the team of production people that gave their work such gorgeous value. I especially loved how some of the participants, who were only in the limelight for a very short time, sat through the whole weekend. I loved Liz Mills, Jay Pather, Brent Meersman and Caroline Calburn who were excellent chairs.

Things I did not love; in no particular order. I was bored by how long it took most people to ask a question. I found it almost impossible to go from the beginning of what they were saying to the end with any idea of where they were going or why if you know what I mean and could you respond to that please? I was left unmoved by clever and affected cynicism in both participants and delegates. I just don’t get that choice. I was irritated with the hypocrisy of many directors and actors who never support each other’s work. I was cross with how many director people and actor people and theatre people still chain smoke. I was disgusted by what they did with their stompies. I was irritated by Mwenya Kabwe’s self-appointed watch dog status as external, black, gender specialist critic. I was blown away by Nicholas Ellenbogen’s dof ignorance that in a moment managed to cause such ructions. I was offended by the remark that was made and then repeated that there are no script writers or playwrights in South Africa. There are. I am one of them. We have no idea where to take our scripts once they are written, or what to do with them. I was a little emotional that Zabalaza and Thami Mbongo didn’t really acknowledge that Ikhwezi was started with a desire to do exactly what they are doing now, even though I deeply respect their new vision and energy. I was shocked that many participants came and then left after delivering their input.

There were a few things that I think were overlooked. In the discussion with critics, the much more successful role that the Afrikaans newspapers play in Cape Town in promoting and reviewing theatre was not mentioned. The role of theatre managements and their relationship to directors was not even considered, except by Neil Coppen in a death reference to The Playhouse. The question of patronage was not raised. In all the discussions about colour nobody mentioned that the entire company of The Mechanicals was white.

There was a rumour I picked up that UCT’s Drama department are going to turn the Little Theatre into two black boxes. My heart broke. Obviously, I am utterly convinced that this should not happen. What does everybody else think?

Over and above everything that I thought or continue to think about is what my role as a director is. I was invited to the weekend as that weird thing, ‘media’. I felt like a participant. I identified with directors, performers, writers and teachers. Overwhelmingly I felt like I was there as meganshead. These are interesting labels for me. What am I? I’m not sure there is a simple answer, nor that I even want to go to that analytical place. I work in the role of director. And when I do, I know what kind of director I want to be. I want to have the warmth that we agreed was vital. I want to have brilliant relationships with actors who trust me and who I trust. I want audiences to know how much they are taken into consideration by me when I make work for them. I want to be part of the magical theatre team. I want to feel safe and scared and thrilled and paranoid and hysterical and sleep deprived and concerned and angry. I want to feel.

And that’s what I did this last weekend. I felt. Everything.


Directors and Directing

It’s not comfortable trying to write a post on a Blackberry even though the fact that it is actually possible remains miraculous to me. That’s what I’m doing!
I am waiting for the first panel discussion of the day to start. It’s day 2 of the Directors and Directing ‘thing’ presented by GIPCA at Hiddingh Hall. I am sitting next to Bo Petersen and vaneshran Arumugam as everyone gathers.
The fact that an event like this can happen and is well attended is a reason to love Cape Town. Now let’s see what the content delivers.
This morning the panel is Clare Stopford, janice Honeyman, Geoff Hyland, Mandla Mbothwe, Carolyn Holden and James Ngcobo.

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